Tuesday, August 29, 2006

on the road

So, you would think that a wedding getaway/holiday that started with some asshole (hereinafter known as Mr A) jumping a queue I'd been in for 30 minutes just because he was in business class could only go downhill. Well, I walked up to him and told him what I thought of him, and he wasn't at all repentant - the weird thing was the airline apologised for him! What? I asked the airline, to his hearing - of course - if it was fine for him to act like a jerk and have them apologise but they went quiet. So, the septuagenarian couple in front of me had to wait for Mr A to get checked in, but what was sweet was the couple and I became good travel buddies and Mr A couldn't look anyone in the eye for the entire flight - delicious 9 hour payback.

Anyway, it all got better... once on the plane it hit me how some things have become obsolete in my short lifetime - pretty wild to think about! One of them is airline ashtrays, and the whole idea of smoking on airplanes. The sight of all those glued-shut ashtrays just reminds you how old most planes are, but think about how far we've come: you could actually have lighters, lighter fuel, tobacco, smoke... all that good stuff up there in the air, and now you're not even allowed to carry a bottle of water to your seat - of course the duty-free shops are cleaning up :) There's always a good financial angle to all these alerts, prohibitions, curtailments of rights... I saw a guy who was transferring flights get stripped of two bottles of whiskey in Switzerland, yet he'd just bought them in duty-free and hadn't been warned. I see a whole new recycling sale industry developing... Biggest irony though? While we were limited to the tiniest carry on bags ever, the people who boarded in Switzerland seemed to have huge bags; a Jewish guy - of the big beard and long curly lock crew - on the plane even reached into his bag to get Pringles and - oh my God! - juice!! See how stupid it sounds that we were all staring open-mouthed at a guy becasue he took juice out of his carry on bag? But then again, two guys were thrown off a plane just for looking a certain way. I wonder what would have happened if they had reached into their bags for a bottle of fresh juice...

Shopping: I just found out that this really forward thinking basketball star - Stephon Marbury - started his own clothing label so young boys could have cool gear for less and not have to resort to crime to look fly. The label is called starbury (starbury.com) and they sell basketball shoes for $14.98, work boots for £9.98 and most of their other gear for $9.98. Of course I had to support the cause so I hooked my self up in Connecticut. Otherwise, I've been good!

The other great thing is because I'm here for family I've been road-tripping with my Mom and, man, have I been asleep with this writing stuff. Things have been going on around me and I have no idea; it's good to catch up...


what i'm reading/listening to

Woyaya by Osibisa

my own stuff to realign my writing in progess :)

Monday, August 21, 2006


Remember that Ghanaian poets project I spoke about? Well, I did warn you that I tend to go all out - it's become awhole'notherproject at http://niiayikwei.wordpress.com/poems-from-ghana/ and take a wild guess as to whose writing is slow :) - absolutely no thought movement... I better go and play catch up!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

mr hyde

Every so often I feel this little twinge of desperation, like all the things I'm doing will lead to nothing and I'll be left with dream shards that cut every time I try to move. It's like I have so much to learn and there's no time in the world and I just want to cry. I call those moments my Mr Hyde moments because if you catch me in a moment like that, with desperation and tears stacked up behind my eyes, I can snap with absolutely no provocation...

Ironically, the only thing that helps me push the feeling aside is remembering the really hard times I've lived through; the days with no food, the months sleeping on concrete, the 20-hour shifts to hold back debt... OK, it's not the ONLY thing that helps - crying hard does too but sometimes it's messy. Having said that, living alone like I do, it's often a quicker solution than dredging your memories for misery, but don't fall for the temptation of calling your mom or dad; they'll just cheer you up in that way that makes you cry even more - there's nothing as bad as someone trying to tell you you're precious and talented and a gift and clever and remarkable, when you feel like shit!

- SIGH -

OK, I let it go. I found a video that a friend of mine made when I was performing in Munich so I'm stealing it for you. (check out Ken Yamamoto if you speak German; he's a cool dude!)

Nii Parkes (London) Substanz 2006
click above to see it

i'm listening to patti labelle; she has a great voice for low times...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

imho - lmao

Can I just say, what is a humble opinion?? Think about it; if you have an opinion you already feel pretty good about yourself or what you're thinking - humility doesn't come into it. Respect, maybe... but humility? IMHO - In My Humble Opinion - Has no one ever wondered why the expression only exists in English? It's a typical English sucker-punch-type expression that allows one to kiss ass and speak their minds at the same time... of course, if you think that it originated from England and England still has 'the Royals' it makes a bit of sense. How do you advise someone who has the right to behead you at any time? Aha! In my own proud language of Ga, equivalent expressions for speaking one's mind are as clear as 'if I look' (ke mi kwe) or 'i don't feel that way'/ - more literally- 'it doesn't do me that way' (e fee mi nakai), in French it's 'a mon avis' - nobody puts humble in the mix except the English. Anyway, I've been thinking about the antidote for weeks, and it's another internet favourite: LMAO - Laughing My Ass Off (or in Ghana LMBO, where B=Buttocks!). The trick is once you laugh your ass off there is nothing left to kiss so IMHO can go bury itself!

So, I've been away beavering at a new interface for the Tell Tales site to restore interactivity after a long time away. The new link is at http://www.telltales.co.uk/tt_cafe/

Interesting stuff I've read over the last couple of days, are the use of the rings from female condoms as bangles in Ghana (link here). I mean, how can you not love a country where the mathematics of birth control can be turned into a distinct, economical fashion advantage, manipulated to ignite the chemistry of attraction and head back into the whirlwind of sexual activity. See, for years we've replaced the fan belts in our cars with stockings, created stretch limos by putting two halves of separate cars together... why would anyone be surprised that our women are so creative! The other thing I read is a perfect example of how a film might later be made about how a woman used the rings from female condoms to start a fashion empire BUT they just might forget to say she was from Ghana :) All hail Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, where a black ex-marine who helped save lives on September 11 was cast as a white man :) Well, I understand; there just aren't enough jobs out there for the struggling white actors in Hollywood (link here)

I'm listening to the poet - Bobby Womack - 'cos he's a lyrical mack with one of the most amazing voices in the world and I'm reading Roald Dahl 'cos I'm writing some kiddie stuff and Roald had that down! Speaking of kiddies, it's well past my bedtime - I need to go get my Horlicks and snoozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

what i'm reading/listening to

The Poet by Bobby Womack

Esio Trot by Roald Dahl

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ghana 2, Togo 0

and I take a bow, my work is done, rien a dire!


Sunday, August 13, 2006

it's called a break

been relaxing for the first time in like 7 years, buying baby stuff with one of my best friends who is going to be a father in september (babies are expensive business here!), and just talking - 'bout relationships, trust, and how impossible it is to explain to someone that you're faithful when you've never tried to cheat; see it's always the cheats that have their stories ready :) oh, the delicious ironies of life! anyway, we've been listening to raul midon and a whole heap of robert cray 'cos my boy is a guitarist - we used to write songs together but we haven't even sat down to share music for a while. this was my way of saying, we've been drifting, but here's some stuff i know you missed that i know you'll love. and guess what? i was right. so, are friends more predictable than the opposite sex? ha, ha, yes, it's a conundrum for these modern times - gotcha!

Saturday, August 12, 2006


no listening, no reading, just talking... i'm away from home unwinding with some old friends 'cos my life's all twisted right now. of course, what do i get for dinner? pasta - spaghetti bolognese. you couldn't get more twisted than that - am i reading too many metaphors out here? well, the good thing is it tasted great and i ate it all. now if i could consume all my entangled problems in the same way, i wouldn't care if it came with good wine or not!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

fenugreek love, fan hatred

First, anyone who makes a comment on how long it took me to get clean dies. I was working!
Even if I wasn't, that's what free will is about. So, anyway I said fenugreek is my new thing.
Natural, subtle or overpowering depending on how you use it; a spice like love and salt...
Use too much and you come undone. Speaking of overuse, I've decided I hate the extractor fan;
great big thing above my cooker that's supposed to stop my place from stinking of food - well I
really like the smell of food. And you can't be creative if you can't smell what you're cooking, I've
even tried hovering above the pans when I'm cooking but the damned noisy thing is a little too
effective. So I turned it off and now my dreams smell of palm oil. Hey, I'm happy. I will not
keel over because of the smell of good food, will I? I made a super slimy okro soup with chicken
wings last night, with a healthy dose of my new best friend fenugreek and the world stopped.
One of these days I'll write a recipe book. I've had one recipe published but it's just not enough.
What I have is a unique angle. Surely a kid who smelled his food so religiously that his mother
asked him if he was a monkey must have a different perspective on food...
random facts:
fenugreek is supposed to increase breastmilk production, some cultures have used it to increase breast size, and it is used in that lovely eritrean/ethiopian bread (injera).

hope you enjoyed my acrostic post - any excuse to practise poetry :) - speaking of which, that chronicling exercise I spoke of? I found the first poem. It was hard work, but I did so I'll be doing a double thought movement... Oh, and Random House just sent me an advance copy of Anne Carson's new collection of poetry (please, don't ask me why!) so I have some interesting verse to look forward to after I come out of jazz-inspired scribernation. I'm listening to Branford Marsalis right now - the guy is amazing! I've decided to let him play on because I've been very productive since he kicked in. I'd love to see him live one day - he's my favourite Marsalis brother (OK, Nii, when the jazz geekiness kicks in you have to say goodbye to the nice people...) Erm, bye bye!

what i'm reading/listening to

Requiem by Branford Marsalis

Ghanaian Poets I: Kofi Anyidoho: My Song

Ha, found the first. My Song by Kofi Anyidoho. It's kinda cool because I went to school with his daughter and she's a poem herself. He says of this poem "This poem is something of a signature tune, an invitation to "My song." It in part a translation of, and in part in elaboration on, an original Ewe song by one of the poet-cantors of the Haikotu Drum of my birth place, Wheta."

My Song


I sell My Song for those with ears to buy
It is to a tree that a bull is tied
You do not bypass the palm's branches
to tap its wine

The things I have to say

I say them now
I shall stand aside
from those who care
to clear their throat and
dress their shame in lies

When you meet a poorly-dressed neighbour
at a great durbar
you do not spit on the ground
and roll your eyes to the skies

The umbrella I bought
You stole from my rooms at dawn
Now I walk in the early morning rain

You point at me to our young maidens
And they join you in laughter

My People
Think well before you laugh at those who walk in the rain.

The gifts that bestows at birth
Some had some splendid things
What was mine?
I sing. They laugh.
Still I sell My Song
for those with ears to buy

My cloth is torn, I know
But I shall learn to wear it well

My voice is hoarse, I know
But I shall learn to wear it well.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

new resolution

warning: i come up with these when i'm at loose ends!

i'm going to find as many electronically available poems from older Ghanaian poets as possible and put them up here - starting tomorrow :)

ok, it's like midnight and i'm just about to shower; i've got funk without music!!

oh, my new love? fenugreek - yep, i'm definitely doing a cooking post after i get cleaned up!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

spidery stillness

I've always thought that as long as things were in a state of constant movement, spiders couldn't settle. How wrong I was! My flat is infested with spiders right now and I KNOW I don't keep still, but then today - in a rare zen moment - it occured to me that my definition of movement could be stillness for a spider. I mean, how many seconds does a spider need to shoot silk from its backside and settle down? So, as much as I resent the invasion (and the fact that they are not paying rent etc) I'm OK about it now. I have finally understood the concept of light years in a down to earth manner, all through the galaxy of a spider's web!

Anyway, I'm sure you've noticed over the last two days that I've been listening to music and not reading. Well, that's a reason to celebrate. Those darned spiders are inspiring me to write, plus I have the comfort of knowing if I get stressed I can hunt them to kill (EVIL LAUGH - hu hu ha ha ha); it satisfies the Nii-anderthal in me :)

what i'm reading/listening to

Quiet After the Storm by Dianne Reeves

Monday, August 07, 2006

turkey talk

Am I the only person who finds it funny that I got hiccups less than five minutes after eating turkey? OK, I guess it's hard to tell out here in intergalaxy but I laughed; I laughed so hard the hiccups went. What's the moral of the story? Go figure...

One short story in limbo
One short story in grey matter transit
One novel in hiatus/imagination exile
One kiddie story on clipboard - stewing
One hundred poems awaiting edits


Sunday, August 06, 2006

a code for living

So, I nearly missed the 'daily' and it's only my first week! My excuse is that I was coding and doing web updates for the 'creative community' website www.x-bout.com that I've been running for about five years. I am highly inefficient at it because I haven't really sat down to study any code since 2001 so I have to learn everything as I use it - invariably there are mistakes. I mean I spent an hour trying to figure out how to feed this blog into myspace using flash and I didn't succeed; I mean I'm halfway there, but I can't afford the extra hour it will take to get it right...

I did manage to roast a tasty leg of turkey while I was doing all the updating, and also read through a friend's CV for two hours trying to match it up with a job spec to help in an interview prep... Anyway, long way of saying that my treatise on women/men/objectification will have to wait. I did get pissed off by a statement on BBC Radio 3 though: they introduced Richard Rodney Bennett's jazz composition with a preamble that essentially said he had 'a legitimate music background'. wtf do they mean by that? All the other jazz musicians have an illegitimate music background? Of course, it was a roundabout way of saying Richard Rodney Bennett (I believe he's a SIR) was from a classical music background and it's precisely the kind of cultural imperialist statement that proves that the western world's 'establishment' has changed its clothes but still wears stinky prejudiced underwear. No wonder Miles Davis spent his time following Bird and ditched Julliard; who wants to restrict themselves to some fossilised bs claiming to be new rain? Damn!

ok, vent over. I was happy :) to find some new thing called celtx that allows you to collaborate on a writing project online and THAT is what progress is about!

what I'm reading/listening to

The Best Man OST

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Writing Neuroses - Titles

I thought this was an interesting post thus I share. It's on titles from Kay Sexton, whose favourite title I was privileged to select for Tell Tales volume 3.

Writing Neuroses ... mine are rare, yours may be legion - Titles

Friday, August 04, 2006

myriad musings

Last night I judged a youth slam at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London and, man... The kids were so good; they had questions lingering like dragonflies and families falling to pieces piece by piece with no peace and fell in love like gangstas fall in love with rims etc. Crazy. And there was a kid called Henry who lied about his age to get on a writing workshop (said he was 14 but was 12), who just blew us away with his performance. On my way to the slam I was reading on writing for kids so it was very enlightening to see the range of imagination and points of view on offer during the slam. Great night out. I headed back home reading a spec script for 'Frasier' on the train because I'm toying with the idea of writing a sitcom with my good friend, fellow writer and dreamer, Ainsley Burrows in the next few weeks. Now, thinking of sitcoms makes you look at the world slightly differently, because everything is a situation so all you have to do is find the comedy - how a woman with hips narrower than a pencil is carrying an obese kid across the road, how one man in a conversation nods his head off-beat, like 10 seconds after the point has been made, how women often accuse men of flirting because they can see the subtle flirting of the other woman, but the men can't see it because for men, largely, flirting has to be blatant, a neat-freak bald man picking at his girlfriend's dress for fluff; all these things in the right context, with the right timing are rich veins of laughter... Anyway, I stopped at Sainsbury's in Paddington where strawberries had dropped from £2.99 to £0.69 so I couldn't resist buying a punnet with the intention of making a very basic dessert, with the last 4 digestive biscuits I have at home and some ice cream:

I'll be using a process similar to that used for making jam, but without the pectin ('cos I'm quick and dirty and gangsta!). Basically, I'll put about 8 tablespoons of sugar (I'm only making a little bit) in a pan with some water, heat slowly until the sugar is dissolved then crush the strawberries, put them in the solution and thicken slightly. When it cools it will get a bit thicker. On the other side, I'll crush the digestives into crumbs, layer the bottom of a bowl with it, cover with vanilla ice cream (soft) and then ladle the strawberry mix over it. (Man, this strawberry is bringing the whole Prince connection back like a raspberry beret!). The whole deal goes into the freezer to chill a little until I'm ready to chill with it!!

Otherwise, I'm been having some thoughts about beauty and the divisions it brings so expect some musings on that tomorrow - a recent poll conducted for men and women showed that men were less focused on physical attributes like breast size etc. than women! It was the women who wanted those bodies; interesting huh? The womeselecteded the most 'processed' woman (photo) as the most attractive, the men went for someone plainer who turned out to be one of the more intelligent women on the list :). But I'm off for now. I'm so proud of myself I've written two blogs today; this one - my thought movement - and thundermental writes

what i'm reading/listening to

Nevermind by Nirvana

Successful Sitcom Writing by Jurgen Wolff

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Someday My Prince Will Come

Ghanaian writer Nii Ayikwei Parkes performing his poem 'Someday My Prince Will Come to an audience in Bristol, UK. Yeah, that's me, fine opera voice and all :)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

sun schizo


My bed is juxtaposed so that the sun rises in my eyes. I face east and it stabs me hard when the day breaks, so I've decided the sun is schizophrenic because it's such a different creature at night. Low hips, seductive curves, an orange-red dress, and a longing to hide in the dark, behind trees, a desire to plunge in the sea... Love can be that way, and writing. I'm having dark days; my second novel misses my meddling but I can do nothing about it. The scent of the woman I love hangs around my bed, book spines peek from my shelves, colours hover on the edge of my eyes... distractions!

My attempts to get back 'home', tap into my thought movement :) and return to the manuscript have led me to dig out my Koo Nimo CD and get into his eloquent 'palm wine guitar' sound. Now, I selected a song from that CD for the radio programme (BBC) that was done on my first manuscript so I went back to listen to it (links below) and I didn't cringe as much as the first time. Regardless, the songs haven't worked so I'm reading a book on writing for children since I've had some interest from some reputable children's publishers in my work for kiddies. It's kinda been a good news week because the manuscript featured in the radio programme has finally gone out to a couple of amazing publishers and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Might that have something to do with my inability to write... Hmmm??

Mmmm, heard some good sound yesterday from my good friend Randolph Matthews (great vocalist, constantly-morphing percussionist and guitarist), Orin Marshall (Tuba) and Zena Edwards (poetry and vocals) at a place called Cottons on Exmouth Market. Had some food too; the jerk was OK but the rice was a bit hard. I like my rice and peas to be, as we say in Ghana, 'smooching' - softer and slightly sticky. However, the woman whose scent hangs around my room was there and she looked breathtaking (I had to keep my distance for reasons best left unblogged) and I bumped into an old uni friend after like 8 or 9 years (yes, I am that old!), which was mad cool 'cos I miss hanging out with my friends. Writing has twisted me into an asocial beast that only emerges occassionally to terrorise silence.

I'm not just a lone beast. I mentor a couple of young poets and I'm constantly telling them how 'dreamy' they are; everything they write has colours, dreams and love - come on! Now I know I've been unfair. It's a phase and they need it. My silent moments led me to look back and I found 'meself' in them. To prove it I expose myself in this 1996 effort, Dreams like Mine:

If I had
a feather for a pen
I would fly on its blue wings
to your arms
to be inspired
by a colour
only found in your eyes.

If there were
a rugged swinging rope
dangling from the clear blue sky
I would climb
closer to heaven
to escape
the pain walls around me.

If my life
were imagination
and not ravenous questions
I would smile
in the tapping rain,
run through falling snow,
make faces at stars,
race the midnight winds,
seduce a sandstorm,
dance with a whirlwind
to enrage the sun...
just to show you
dreams like mine.

Well, I guess from now I'll just shut up then!!

Radio Links:
Cost of Red Eyes Programme Part 1

Cost of Red Eyes Programme Part 2

what i'm reading/listening to

Osabarima by Koo Nimo

The Way to Write for Children by Joan Aiken

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

justice for ordinary people

I've decided I've grown tired of protesting in the names of nations, because, ultimately, we, the citizens, the ordinary people, are simply mixed in with the rhetoric of politicians for effect. You only have to look at how athletes/footballers from Zola Budd (SA - UK), to Wilson Kipketer (Kenya - Denmark) to Gerald Asamoah (Ghana - Germany), to Chris Birchall (UK-Trinidad) have switched 'nationalities' to compete passionately for their adopted countries to realise that nations are just constructs to flare up people's passions towards causes espoused by - you guessed it - politicians. I mean I'm looking at this Lebanon - Israel - Palestine triangle and I'm thinking I don't thing anyone's hands are clean (although I do think Israel have more blood on their hands) so I feel a little odd about taking a placard and going out to protest for Justice for Palestine or Justice for Lebanon or whatever... I want my placard to read 'Justice for Ordinary People': I think it's sick that Israeli military commanders can be as young as 21 - the boys barely have a youth, and since they haven't really known pain they don't know what they are doing, and I think it's sick that they are ordered to fire on UN bases, families, and vital infrastructure by leaders who have just inherited bitterness from their fathers and have forgotten that what most ordinary people want in Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and a dozen other war torn places is the ability to sit outside and stare at the sun without wondering when the next attack is coming... Anyway, that's my rant for the day. I had a brilliant evening yesterday at aromapoetry STAGE - some really fantastic readers out on the open mike, and the x magazine reading was great too. Although I edit the magazine, I only get to meet the writers at these readings and there's nothing nicer than putting a face to a poem :) - you can buy x magazine online at inpress books and you can read excerpts online at www.flippedeye.net/xmag. On my way from the reading I met my friend, SOAS Librarian Chris Gutkind (no jokes about all my friends having something to do with books, please!) who recently released a collection of poetry 'Inside to Outside'. I bought a copy off him, and although it's on the avant garde side of things and it takes me a while to digest those, I loved some lines like 'fire is happiest in unused matches' from the poem "Here" and 'they still look around listening for the sound of what-to-do' from "Inbetween". I also picked up Courttia Newland's new short story collection, Music for the Off-Key, at his fantastic launch, although I could only stop by for a short time because it was in London and a considerable distance from my bed... and we all know ordinary people need their sleep!

what i'm reading/listening to

No More Drama by Mary J Blige